Combining acid-base chemistry with self-assembly for enhanced proton conduction in protic ionic liquids

Ionic conduction is at the base of important biological and chemical processes. Understanding the relation between ionic motion and local chemistry is pivotal to design new functional materials and thus develop technologies with the potential for a societal impact. In this field of materials science, an important challenge is to achieve a selective ion conduction to suit a specific application. It is my aim to develop an original concept of proton conducting materials, based on next-generation ionic liquid structures that in addition to providing acid-base proximities (which localise protons) are also able to self-assemble. Ionic and non-ionic domains will nano-segregate, thus creating directional paths for proton transport. New materials able to provide high proton mobility in an extended temperature interval and in the anhydrous state are immediately interesting for use in PEM fuel cells, which represent a fundamental technology for a clean and sustainable society. My research program aims to understand, on a molecular level, how the proton transport depends on the chemical structure of the ionic liquid, as well as on the nature of intermolecular interactions. To achieve deep insights on these aspects I will use advanced experimental techniques, such as vibrational and NMR spectroscopy, and X-ray scattering methods. The research will be supported by molecular dynamics simulations that can provide complementary structural and dynamical insights at a (sub-)molecular level.

Start date 01/01/2019
End date 31/12/2022

Published: Thu 11 Apr 2019.